PUBLIC-spirited Stephen Corcoran caught metal thieves red-handed but was furious when police said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge them.
Mr Corcoran, 49, pulled over when he saw two men trying to steal a 6ft cast iron grate in Park Road off Manchester Road, Milnsbridge.
He ordered the startled thieves to put the grate back, then rang police on his mobile phone and tailed them to a scrapyard.
Police arrested two men and later asked Mr Corcoran if he would make a statement and go to court if necessary.
Mr Corcoran spent an hour doing his public duty only to be told by the officer that charges were unlikely because there was no evidence of theft.
Mr Corcoran was furious and said: “Metal theft is not a victimless crime and I put myself out to try to stop it.
“Taxpayers have to foot the bill for this and I almost drove past but I knew it was wrong and that I should do something about it.
“They got caught and arrested but if all they get is a slap on the wrist where is the deterrent?”
Mr Corcoran told how he was driving along Manchester Road at 10.45am on Monday, April 23, when he saw a man loading the cast iron grate into a small Renault van.
He pulled over and asked what they were doing and the man replied: “Just picking this up.”
Mr Corcoran saw red and said: “Do you think I’m stupid?” and told him to put it back, which he did.
The van, which appeared to have some old gas pipes on the roof, drove off and Mr Corcoran took the registration number and decided to follow in his Toyota pick-up.
He followed them for about a mile-and-a-half to a scrapyard where the men weighed in metal.
Mr Corcoran was on the phone to police and guided them to the scene.
One of the men approached Mr Corcoran, though not aggressively, and told him to hang up the phone.
Police arrested two men on suspicion of theft and later contacted Mr Corcoran for a statement.
“I spent an hour with the officer only for him to tell me it was unlikely there would be any charges because there was no evidence of theft.
“He said at least the fact they had been banged up for the day would have caused them a bit of hardship.”
Mr Corcoran added: “It’s just crazy. I was basically just told I had wasted an hour and a half of my time.”
A police spokesman confirmed that two men were arrested at a scrapyard on suspicion of theft.
The spokesman said: “In interview, the men separately stated that they had been picking up items that had fallen from their van and that this is what the caller had seen them picking up.
“As there were no witnesses or complaints to any actual theft, there was no evidence with which to press charges and the men were released without charge.”